On a quiet corner of the 5th arrondissement, easy to get to but far from the crowd, Cédric and Rebecca Tessier have created a nearly perfect small neighborhood restaurant, with a pleasant minimalist decor and well-spaced tables that leave you free of your neighbor’s conversation. The atmosphere is low-key, but the food definitely has a discreet wow! factor—a delightful surprise in such a simple setting. Tall and lanky chef Tessier did his apprenticeship with Michel Rostang and Alain Dutournier, but his style is very much his own version of updated traditional bistrot fare. He even dares to start off his fixed-price menu with a starter of fromage de tête—head cheese, but if you didn’t know that, it’s just a delicious, well-seasoned pâté. Other starters include a fricassee of wild mushrooms and a superb salad of shoestring strips of raw vegetables, topped with shaved Parmesan and a truffle oil vinaigrette. (Don’t fear, there’s only the barest hint of the usually noxious truffle oil.)

Main dishes might include giant shrimp sauteed with Java pepper served with a vegetable fricassee; rolled veal roast with chanterelles; or delicate rouleaux of filet of sole with lemon and leeks. Among the recent plats du jour was a superb civet of wild hare that managed to be at once classic and unusually light. For dessert there might be spicy pineapple with ginger, or tangerine soup with hazelnut chantilly. Wines are reasonable too, and there’s a remarkably good Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes at €25.

45 rue Claude Bernard, 5th, Métro: Cluny, Censier-Daubenton or RER Luxembourg, Fixed price: starter and main or main and dessert €24, three courses €27

Prices are per person without wine.

Originally published in the November 2009 issue of France Today